Rotella stresses process, appreciation over results

November 11, 2016

Dr. Bob Rotella, the noted sports psychologist and best-selling author of several golf books, spoke before a large and deeply appreciative audience Sept. 18 at Heritage Shores Golf Club in Bridgeville.

The former Vermonter and now long-time Virginian arrived early enough for a bit of golf at the course before his Champion Your Life presentation that afternoon in the Heritage Shores ballroom. His was the last of four speakers’ presentations hosted by Beebe Healthcare, part of the organization’s Rock Your Life seminars celebrating Beebe’s 100th anniversary. 

For those who’ve read Rotella’s books, such as “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect” or “The Golfer’s Mind,” much of what he said would have been very familiar. Nonetheless, Rotella is a fine speaker, and his delivery made up at least half of the pleasure of hearing what he had to say.

He went over some of the basic concepts he stresses in his two-day sessions with seasoned golf professionals and others who seek his guidance.

For example: 

“Use your mind to help you.“

“Play golf without fear and doubt.“

“Remember that no one else in your group really cares what you do.” 

“Play with yourself. Enjoy the challenge. Love the game all the time.”

He readily admitted that some of his adages are far easier to adopt and incorporate into one’s game than others.

Rotella said, “Your head has to be in the right place. Think about where you want the ball to go, never where you don’t want it to go.”

That last bit of advice is often difficult for me. The seventh and 12th holes at Rookery South both have ponds on the right side of the fairways. The last thing my mind hears when I think, “Don’t hit it into the pond,” is “Hit it into the pond” – which it often did this summer.

Rotella’s advice to focus on the target instead, and to make that target as small as possible, can help golfers avoid that common performance issue.

In discussing Roberto Castro, a rising PGA Tour player who had a fine 2016 season, Rotella talked about loving the birdie or one-putt par more than hating bogey. As he put it, “You have to accept the game as it is – a game of mistakes. Learn how to like that and enjoy it.”

As in his books, Rotella also stressed the importance of the short game in improving performance. “It’s impossible to be great without a short game. It’s impossible to have a great short game without a great mind,” he said. “Spend time on your short game from 100 yards and in. It’s where most of your shots are going to come from. You’ve gotta love the short game if you want to find out how good you can get.” 

During the question and answer portion of his presentation, Rotella discussed two women, Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez and current LPGA star Lydia Ko. Concerning Lopez, Rotella said her father’s advice was to “just play happy.” Lopez did, and had a great career.

Rotella said that Lydia Ko “must be the most relaxed golfer I’ve ever seen. There’s a gal who gets it.” 

With respect to maintaining expectations and goals while playing, Rotella provided a simple playing tip about scoring: “Don’t be adding scores up during the round, add them up when it’s over.”

An audience member asked about kids and sports, and Rotella provided a thoughtful response. He noted that when he was young, kids tended to switch sports every three months, depending on the season. Today’s youth, if they want to compete at a high level, need to decide on specialization far earlier than in the past. 

Rotella felt that it’s a good thing for young golfers to develop skills in other sports, especially those that stress teamwork. However, he also said that at the highest levels of golf, “The rest of the world is so single-minded” that American kids might be at a disadvantage if they don’t adopt the same approach.

That level of focus on a single sport is clearly not what Rotella would prefer, but based on what’s happening professionally and at the high end of amateur competition, it’s just what it is. 

After his speech, Rotella gracefully signed the books presented to him, and posed for selfies. He signed my first edition copy of “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect” with the phrase, “Love the Challenge!”  

I agree. 

Plantation Lakes holds first member-guest

The new Plantation Lakes golf course held its first member-guest tournament Nov. 5-6. Head Golf Professional Steve Farrell said the players “had a blast,” and that the tournament was “something for the club to build on.”

Thirty-two golfers teed up for the round robin, match play event, with four flights. 

The flight winners were:

Flight 1: Rob Langdon and Vince Rodkey

Flight 2: Robert McKee and Bud Jones

Flight 3: Chris O’Hallaran and Paul Armstrong

Flight 4: Dennis Dubbert and Nils Holm.

Dubbert and Nils also won the shootout among the four flight winning teams, with O’Hallaran and Armstrong coming in second after a valiant effort, according to Farrell.